The Department of Education (Dep-ED) was caught by complete surprise over a narration of a fifth grade student – Jhessa Balbastro who hails from Barangay (village) Bonotbonot, Buenavista, Bohol that because of extreme poverty and her desire to finish school, she used banana leaves to write her answers for a spelling test instead of paper.
The heart wrenching tale of Balbastro was played on video before a nationwide audience glued to their television sets at the closing part of the 3rd and final presidential debate held at the Phinma University of Pangasinan in Dagupan City.
Dr. Wilfreda Bongalos, DepEd Schools Division Superintendent, Bohol, reacting to the embarrassing picture of the state of education in the province told DYRD Balita “this has given a very negative image to Bohol. Despite extreme poverty in some areas in the province, I do not believe that this shameful incident happened”.
This was her story – “We are poor and always scrounging for food. I help my parents do the daily household chores. I belong to section 1(Grade 5) and 8th in the roll of honor. My dream is to become a teacher. I want to teach. Once we had a spelling test. My parents did not have the money to buy a pad of paper. I used the leaves of the banana as my answer sheet. I was ashamed to borrow a piece of paper from my classmates. They laughed at me when they saw the banana leaf as my answer sheet. I want to finish school to help my parents”.
Jhessa, the eldest in a brood of six told her story in broken Filipino with a strong Visayan accent and was accompanied by her mother Mary Jane Torreon.
Dr. Wilfreda Bongalos, DepEd Schools Division Superintendent, Bohol took to task Maria Ann Doroy, the teacher handling the 37 students in Jhessa’s class at the Bonotbonot Elementary School in Buenavista for uploading the video on her Facebook account showing the banana leaf used by Jhessa as her answer sheet.
ABS-CBN saw the video and requested Doroy to use the video as part of the town hall debate portion of the presidential debate but she refused. Instead, the broadcast network, one of the organizers the event went directly to Jhessa and her parents.
Doroy, in an interview with DYRD “Inyong Alagad” said that “my intention of uploading the video and describing it as “very inspiring” to my Facebook account was to show her as an example to all those who are struggling to get an education”.
Doroy also said that she was aware that Jhessa was using a banana leaf as her answer sheet for the spelling test and admired her “resourcefulness” but did not offer her any paper.
Jhessa, according to Doroy is one of the beneficiary of the school based management program of the Dep-ED but made it clear that she is not under the Amoma, Giya, Alayon sa Kalampusan (AGAK),
DYRD Balita also learned that Jhessa’s was not among the fifteen students under the national goverment’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P’s), a human development measure that provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor to improve the health, nutrition and education of children aged 0-18.
AGAK is a child nurture program “that envisions a 100% completion of all students in basic education” thru the collective effort of all Dep-ED school heads and teachers in Bohol.
Bongalos cautioned all teachers and Dep-ED personnel to exercise “utmost caution” when using social media to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing exposure of Bohol’s state of education and poverty.
Bonotbonot Elementary School has 172 students. (Chito M. Visarra with reports from Rey Tutas)